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Jim's Gems: Chart Your Path With Self-Reliance

May 8, 2013
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One of my favorite writers is Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was born in Boston in 1803 and graduated from Harvard in 1821.  Although born more than two centuries ago his published works have certainly inspired and changed the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

Among my favorites of Emerson’s works is "Self-Reliance" which I first read in Millard Shaw’s high school senior English class.  In “Self-Reliance” Emerson stresses the importance of being an individual and a nonconformist. The idea Emerson projects revolves around how important it is to trust yourself, and to let your mind lead you in your life’s journey that is best for you.

Emerson wrote: "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."

The above quote speaks to the experience many of us have when we thought about an idea for a better product or service but did nothing about it. Later, when we see someone else successfully implemented the idea, we wonder why it wasn't us taking the initiative to move forward with the idea. Their success may have been ours!

The reason we didn’t take the initiative is simple. We just didn't trust ourselves. Emerson went on to write: "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him in new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."

Over the years as my career progressed I found inner strength in reading this passage occasionally because it reminded me to trust my instincts and to believe in myself and the value of my ideas.

Another quote from Emerson that cemented the importance of this concept: "Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place Divine Providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events."

It is so important to chart our own path through life. What everyone needs, however, is the courage to move boldly forward into the future with confidence and determination when it comes to reaching our desires, goals, and objectives.

Emerson said it best when he wrote: "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps within perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

If you have never read "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson, it will be worth your time and effort because it will give you insight and provide inspiration. If you have read it before, it is certainly well worth revisiting it because it will inspire you once again. 

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